6 Signs That It’s Time to Replace the Cooling System of an Outdoor Electrical Enclosure

Temperatures within outdoor electrical enclosures, whether or not they are subject to direct sunlight, can rise to unacceptable levels, leading to overheating of sensitive electrical and electronic equipment inside the panel.

Enclosure cooling systems used to maintain safe temperatures for electrical equipment must perform reliably and have sufficient cooling capacity to limit peak temperatures. These systems can deteriorate over time and should be monitored to identify signs of potential problems.

Enclosure Overheating

Watch out for signs that the air inside the enclosure is getting too hot. This could occur if there is too much equipment in the cabinet, an under specified cooler, or a cooler fault.  Remote temperature sensing provides an immediate indication of high temperatures in a panel and gives maintenance staff the opportunity to react before a failure occurs.

Capacity of Enclosure Cooler

The cooling system should have sufficient capacity to remove heat generated in the enclosure. The reason for an inability to control temperatures may be that the cooler is under-designed for the ambient temperature and thermal load. This can be checked by summating the heat dissipation of the components in the panel;.  Heat dissipation values for components can be obtained from electrical equipment specifications, and the capacity of the cooler can be verified from an online cooling system calculator. One frequent reason for overheating is the subsequent addition of equipment to the panel without taking into consideration cooler capacity limitations.  Another reason for overheating is a component in failure mode that is generating excessive heat,

Dirt in Enclosure

Panel coolers are frequently used in dirty and contaminated environments to ensure electrical equipment is protected against dirt, dust and corrosion as these can cause faulty operation of contactors and relays. If there is dirt in the panel, check that the doors seal and there are no openings in the outdoor electrical enclosure. If these are fine, then check the gasket between the cooler and the enclosure and make sure that dirt is not being drawn in through gaps.  If ventilation fans are being used, consider replacement with closed loop systems such as air conditioners or air to air heat exchangers

Condenser Filter

Air conditioners require regular cleaning of the condenser air inlet filter.  Wash the filter often, if washable, using proper cleaning compound and back flushing the dirt out, or replace the filter, if not washable, whenever it appears physically dirty.  Restriction to the flow of air over the condenser coil will degrade the performance of the air conditioner, cause it to overheat, reduce cooling and can damage the compressor.

Low Refrigerant

If the air conditioner does not have sufficient refrigerant, it will not cool properly. Signs the air conditioner doesn’t have sufficient refrigerant are an evaporator coil low pressure alarm, the compressor running continuously, evaporator coil icing, evaporator coil not cold, and cool condenser coil. Reasons could include a corroded condenser coil, a leaking joint or damages to the refrigeration lines.  A qualified refrigeration professional should investigate and repair the problem.

Noises from Air Conditioner

If the compressor is making banging noises and shaking, this may be an indication of insufficient compressor lubrication or compressor wear and indicates an imminent failure. If the fan is noisy, the bearings may be worn or a blockage may be reducing air flow. Unusual noises need to be investigated at the source.

Cooler Replacement

If the outdoor electrical enclosure is getting too hot, it is an indication that it may be time to replace the cooler. These units generally last for three to five years depending upon operating conditions and, although they can be repaired, the general condition of the unit after that period may be such that replacement is generally the best option since they will carry an all new warranty.

In all cases, regular monitoring of cooling system performance and preventative maintenance are essential to ensure that the outdoor electrical enclosure is kept cool and the equipment inside is protected. Remote indication of high temperature allows a maintenance staff to investigate and rectify problems promptly.

Thermal Edge has air conditioners and heat exchangers that can be used to easily replace existing cooling systems that are no longer doing their job.  Options are available for remote indication of high temperature and other functions.  Contact our sales team if you want to purchase a new cooling system, or call our support team  if you have questions about your existing Thermal Edge equipment.